A Leiter Shade Of Gray: Savile Row Versus Ivy League

Recently a blog called The Suits Of James Bond paid tribute to 007’s American counterpart, Felix Leiter. The observations are hardly earth-shattering, but it is worth noting how the two tailoring styles relect the characters. “The colours Leiter wears may be the same as Bond’s,” the blogger writes, “but the styles are an ocean apart.”

So are the men.

The Suits Of James Bond cites the example of “Goldfinger,” in which Leiter is given an older and stodgier portrayal by actor Cec Linder. Linder wears an anonymous sack suit — along with buttondown oxford and knit tie — as befitting a middle-aged man working in Washington’s corridors of power. Bond, of course, wears Savile Row. Bond is also sexy; Leiter is not.

Of course clothing ultimately depends on who’s wearing it, and a different man in Leiter’s outfit might look like the kind of fearless hero that men want to be, and women want to be with.

The many anonymous sack-suited CIA agents never captured the public’s imagination like the fictional British spy, but they fought the Cold War dressed with understated confidence that natural-shouldered American freedom would eventually triumph over double-breasted Communist cardboard evil. — CC

20 Comments on "A Leiter Shade Of Gray: Savile Row Versus Ivy League"

  1. D.B. McWeeberton | September 4, 2012 at 9:59 am |

    And there’s this classic bit of dialogue from Dr. No, with Jack Lord, the first Felix Leiter (before he got stodgy):

    Leiter: Where were you fitted for this, Bud?
    Bond: My tailor, Savile Row.
    Leiter: Mine’s a guy in Washington, Felix Leiter; Central Intelligence Agency.

  2. I’ve seen Goldfinger a million times, but never really noticed the other guys suits. We all wanted to dress like Bond, I guess.

    Felix (in this pic), looks just like my Dad… the grey J. Press suit, blue button down shirt, and black knit tie – Dad never wore a hat though.

    Thanks for posting the deep details.

    (Just a side note. My Dad always said to “bury me in my J. Press suit”. I had the duty to carry out when the time came, and I was so careful to find all the components. He looked great!). I just so happens I’ve been going through old photographs, and I’ve come across some fine examples of my Dad, the man who introduced me to J. Press, Barrie, Ltd, White’s, and the Yale Co-op. I’ll scan some and do a post soon.


  3. I have a simple, almost rule of thumb. Ivy every day. Evening or special occasions, the spread collars, and subtle Italian suits come out. No reason, just feels appropriate to me. Kinda the same as when my wife pulls out the 3 inch (or higher) heels.

  4. Jack Lord was the ultimate in middle age cool. As Felix or McGarrett, he portrayed the serious, competent law officer. In the few episodes of Five-O, where he went undercover, he looked ridiculous wearing hip clothing. One episode, he wore a tight pair of chinos and an untucked sport shirt. He not only looked uncomfortable, but his acting was positively poor. He walked like an ape.

    Jack Lord would have looked foolish in a Savile Row suit also. The success of most of the Bonds was partly in fact that they were superbly dressed jerks. Look how far George Lazenby or Timothy Dalton went in the Bond role.

  5. Michael Mattis | September 4, 2012 at 5:03 pm |

    Bond’s powder blue terry cloth onesy is hysterical. He’s inspired an entire generation of retired Floridians.

  6. Look at the role on that suit lapel and button down….perfection!

  7. Connery’s Bond would have benefited from much, much less shoulder. In both directions. Leiter’s suit looks great.

  8. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t quite think we have much an answer for Britain’s line-up of gentleman-this gentleman-that, unfortunately.

  9. Postscript: that is, in works of art and popular imagination, etc.

  10. Leiter is certainly the most inconsistent recurring character in the film series.

  11. He would look better without that crappy hat.

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  13. That very outfit, more than seersucker, pincord, or even poplin, is what I recall as the “go to” summer suiting of professional men in the South, c.1965 or so. Their straw snap-brim fedoras would have been a darker color, though.

  14. whiskeydent | November 4, 2018 at 7:31 pm |

    The CIA used to recruit almost exclusively from the Ivy League, Yale in particular. So Leiter’s outfit is probably a pretty accurate depiction of an American spook in the mid 60’s. I doubt British agents could have afforded Saville Row, unless they, like Ian Fleming himself, were born to wealth.

  15. @ Duke

    Bit of an aside, but glad you mentioned Lazenby. Love or hate him in the role, the reality is that On her Majesty’s Secret Service is easily one of the best Bond films of all time.

    And for the love of God, I can’t believe they didn’t move on from that oaf Daniel Craig, in my opinion an absolute disaster in the role, the man couldn’t plausibly charm his own grandmother. His ‘appeal’ is for the average schmo movie goer who enjoys action heroes. Personally I think Idris Elba would be *perfect* as Bond insofar as he mixes genuine physical menace with a masculine charm and grace that is totally believable and magnetic.

  16. Henry Contestwinner | November 14, 2018 at 4:23 pm |

    Casting the blonde-haired Daniel Craig as Bond, to whom Fleming gave black hair, was nearly sacrilegious, but at least he is a Briton (Aussie George Lazenby was the exception to that rule). To cast a woman, or a non-white, in the role, is to change it so much that it’s no longer James Bond.

    None of this is to detract from Idris Elba’s plausibility as a charming secret agent.

  17. @Henry Contestwinner

    Disagree on Elba. At this point, the films have become so far removed from the source material — most obviously, in the ‘time’ in which they are set (modern as opposed to Cold War era), and attendant technology etc. that it seems slightly foolish to mandate strict adherence to the ‘colouring’ (hair or skin) of Bond’s character as laid down by Fleming. To make him something other than a charming Brit would be too much of a departure from that which is ‘essential’ to this character, but I think a non-white Bond would be a great twist (provided this casting was on the basis of talent and suitability for the role, and not for ‘its own sake’, which would be annoying in a virtue-signalling way. I just think Elba would be really, really good in the role). To wit, Craig’s unsuitability has less to do with his hair colour than with his total lack of charm and style.

  18. Oh, this is the worst-looking hat I ever saw. What, when you buy a hat like this I bet you get a free bowl of soup, huh? Oh, it looks good on you though…

  19. Daniel Craig is very wooden and one-dimensional as Bond. Brosnan looked like a European investment banker. There are several excellent British actors who would have made authentic Bonds. Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman and Kenneth Branagh spring immediately to mind. The brilliant and tough Tom Hardy would be my first choice to replace Daniel Craig.

  20. elder prep | April 5, 2019 at 7:35 pm |

    I think RBM clinched the matter. The most recent Bond movies have wrung-out as much money from the series as they could and should have stopped years and movies ago. Unfortunately, they were still generating cash and to the movie moguls, that’s all that mattered.

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